Residential Tenancies: What You Need to Know

By definition, a tenancy takes place where a person or (in cases where it is a multiple occupancy dwelling requiring a joint tenancy) group of people take a legal interest in a property for a limited amount of time. If this period extends to 21 years, it is known as a “lease”.

Tenancies may take place in businesses or other licensed premises, such as shops or offices – and differing rules apply depending on the nature of the tenancy. However, what is a residential tenancy agreement, and which rules apply to this particular kind of tenancy?

What Is a Residential Tenancy?

A private residential tenancy occurs where there is a rental agreement made between a landlord and a tenant on a property that is to be used as a dwelling, otherwise known as a “residential unit”. Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) are the most common type of residential tenancy in the UK.

An AST is a privately rented property where the tenancy is used as a main source of accommodation, is not inhabited by the landlord and began on or following 15th January 1989.

Other kinds of residential tenancy exist, including:

  • Assured tenancies – beginning between 15th January 1989 and 27th February 1997; these may be assured with increased protection against eviction.
  • Excluded tenancies or licences – where the tenant lodges with the landlord, sharing spaces like communal kitchens or bathrooms. These typically have less protection from eviction.
  • Regulated tenancies – starting from 15th January 1989; these have increased protection from eviction. The tenant can also apply for “fair rent”.

Legal Responsibilities

Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, or Residential Tenancy Act, both parties involved in a residential tenancy agreement have specific responsibilities. In the case of landlords, non-compliance may result in a fine.

Examples of landlord responsibilities include ensuring “quiet enjoyment”, such as not disrupting the tenant unless there is an emergency or arranged appointment to visit, maintaining safe living standards (including regular gas and electrical checks), and providing relevant documents, including contact details and the tenancy agreement.

Under the same act, responsibilities of the tenant include dealing with minor repairs and maintenance and reporting a need for major repairs in reasonable time – landlords are responsible for these though. They must also ensure the dwelling is kept reasonably clean and tidy, including any outdoor areas.

Ending Residential Tenancies

Ending a residential tenancy can be done in a number of ways. A fixed-term tenancy may end once it expires or by “surrender”, which is a voluntary agreement between the tenant(s) and landlord that the tenancy has ended, whether it was periodic or fixed term.

Alternatively, a periodic tenancy may be terminated by either landlord or tenant serving a valid notice to quit”. This is a document from the owner or landlord instructing the tenant to pay any remaining rent, rectify any issues potentially violating the tenancy agreement and to vacate the premises by a specified date. Statutes in the UK Government Security of Tenure section created additional protection for the majority of residential tenancies depending on the particular kind of tenancy involved.

To discuss which Residential Tenancy is most appropriate for your residential property, or to obtain advice on a Lease which you have received, email the team at or phone us on 0800 085 5575.